U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly signed a memorandum Thursday revoking an Obama-era program commonly known as DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. The program intends to offer a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrant parents whose children are either residents or citizens of the U.S. While Obama proposed the program in 2014, it was blocked by a federal court in 2015 and never formally implemented. Thursday’s memorandum marks the first time the Trump administration has taken a definitive stance on the policy.
In a Thursday press release, the Department of Homeland Security argued that DAPA had already seen its day in court. “There is no credible path forward to litigate the currently enjoined policy,” the memo reads. DAPA was previously the subject of a lawsuit from 26 states, all with Republican governors, who argued that Obama did not have the authority to grant such widespread amnesty. Following a temporary suspension of the policy in February 2015, a three-member panel of the Fifth Circuit affirmed the ruling in November 2015. The Justice Department later appealed the decision, but a split vote from the Supreme Court in June 2016 prevented any changes from being made.
Had DAPA been implemented, the Migration Policy Institute estimates that it could have applied to around 3.7 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. In order to be eligible for the program, undocumented immigrants must have been the parents of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident as of November 20, 2014. They also had to have continually resided in the U.S. since before January 1, 2010 and could not possess a criminal record. With these stipulations, Obama hoped to prevent around 4 million parents from being deported, while also helping them to secure legal work in the U.S.
The program is not to be confused with DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows select undocumented immigrants who illegally entered the U.S. as minors to attend school and obtain a work permit. The program, founded in 2012 by the Obama administration, has served around 750,000 undocumented immigrants since its inception. While the Trump administration has not taken any steps to rescind DACA, Trump has said he is working on a new policy pertaining to the program’s members. “They shouldn’t be very worried,” Trump told ABC News in January. “I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody.” In addition to the termination of DAPA, Thursday marks the 5th anniversary of DACA’s establishment in the U.S.